Best Restaurants at Sea

Pull up a chair and dine at some of the best restaurants at sea.
Gone are the days when dining on a cruise ship simply meant your choice of Continental classics like beef Wellington, followed by dessert like baked Alaska prepared tableside. Today, many cruise ships are catering to uniquely modern and varied palettes, in some cases courtesy of partnerships with celebrity chefs. Along with showcasing authentic cuisines from different parts of the world, these new culinary ties mean travelers can sample fare developed by big culinary names whom they may have only read about in the past. So bon voyage … and bon appétit!
1. Norwegian Cruise Lines Teams With Cake Boss, Iron Chef
Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

Photo by: Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

When Norwegian Cruise Lines’ newest ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, launches in New York City in May 2013, the ship will up the food ante for the line, introducing new celebrity chef partnerships: Among them is a bake shop, Carlo’s Bake Shop, by TLC’s Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. The shop will offer all of Buddy’s signature cakes (including the option to preorder for onboard birthday and anniversary celebrations) as well cupcake decorating lessons.

Also onboard will be Geoffrey Zakarian, Food Network’s most recently crowned “Iron Chef” and judge of Chopped, who will launch 3 restaurants aboard Norwegian Breakaway: Ocean Blue, serving what the line calls “beachy” seafood classics, such as roasted sea scallops, black sea bass and dover sole; Ocean Blue on the Waterfront, a more casual option serving items like lobster roll and fried calamari; and The Raw Bar, with seafood fare including oysters on the half shell and salmon tartare.
2. Carnival Cruises Teams With Food Network’s Guy Fieri
Carnival Cruises

Carnival Cruises

Photo by: Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines

The Carnival Liberty launched the line’s first partnership with restaurateur Guy Fieri in fall 2011. Yep, that’s right: The ship’s burger and fry shop is overseen by Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives star, who also recently opened his first on-land restaurant in Times Square.

Located by the pool, Guy's Burger Joint, as Fieri’s venture is called, caters to burger lovers everywhere. With a delectable side of hand-cut fries, the burgers come topped with a wide variety of options -- from BBQ sauce to chili -- that we can only assume are inspired by Fieri’s travels for his TV show. Best of all, there’s no surcharge for dining here.
3. Oceania Cruises Teams With Jacques Pepin
Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises

Photo by: Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises

When Oceania’s first newly built vessel, Oceania Marina, debuted in January 2010, it was its restaurants that made the biggest splash. Designed to appeal to true foodies, the ship’s menu has turned one of cruising’s long-held “truths” on its side -- namely, that international cuisine had to be altered for American tastes. The ship’s Asian restaurant, Red Ginger, is a great example of Oceania’s impressive dedication to authenticity. Dishes arrive at the table redolent of lemongrass, galangal, chilies and kaffir lime, including the fabulous Thai Tom kha gai (a coconut milk-based soup) and Malaysian-style beef panang curry.

Another must-try is Jacques by none other than master chef Jacques Pepin. This is the well-known TV cooking show host and cookbook author’s first restaurant venture on land or sea to bear his name. The heart of the menu is the rotisserie, which was engineered to be operable at sea, and turns out black-footed chicken and Provençal-style racks of veal crusted in olive tapenade. Of course, since this is a classic French restaurant and love letter to Jacques’ motherland, you can choose from a rich foie gras terrine, warm goat cheese salad, cheese-topped onion soup and garlicky escargot, as well as steak frites and pistachio-studded saucisson Lyonnais. Finish your meal, appropriately, with a visit from the cheese trolley.
4. Celebrity Cruises’ Specialty Restaurant
Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Photo by: Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Available on a variety of Celebrity’s cruise ships, the specialty restaurant Qsine may just be the most playful spot at sea. The first hint that it is innovative: The menus are presented on iPads.

Here, even dishes that sound simple enough on the menu turn out to be full of presentation surprises. Start with sushi rolls presented as lollipops or make-your-own guacamole. Or consider ordering spring rolls (which appear to be served on metal springs) or Middle Eastern small plates served in a series of cubes that look a bit like cubby holes. End the meal in an equally playful manner, with cupcakes you and your tablemates frost and decorate yourselves.
5. Crystal Cruises Teams With Nobu Matsuhisa
Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises

Photo by: Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises

It’s no surprise that Crystal’s 2 luxurious ships offer two of the best dining options at sea: Silk Road, a Japanese restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and Valentino at Prego, restaurateur Piero Selvaggio’s Italian spot.

For sushi-loving cruisers, a meal at Silk Road is as good as it gets: Picture the chef’s signature rock shrimp tempura, which comes tossed in spicy creamy sauce, followed by the often-imitated miso-glazed black cod. Valentino at Prego, too, is a joy to dine in: The restaurant is based on the celebrated Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, and the menu is full of rich dishes that feel worthy of a special event, from antipasto platters to creamy mushroom soup and risotto.

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